20 Books That Make You Cry

By on December 9, 2014

For the most part, I try to fill my life with optimistic people, positive viewpoints and happy books. On occasion, however, I have to ignore this general rule. Emotionally charged, tragic, dramatic novels are a secret passion of mine. Although I try to avoid any negativity, these books are worth the read. If you are looking for a book that makes you cry, the following 20 books are some of the best that I have ever found. They are perfect reads for dreary days and post-breakup crying fests. Read on to find the 20 books that make you cry.


Night by Elie Wiesel

You know when you are watching a sad movie and you comfort yourself with the words, “This is just fiction”? Well, that self-comforting mechanism is gone for books like Night. In this novel, you receive a real story of one man’s life during World War II. Consigned to a concentration camp, Elie Wiesel lived through a continued march of sadness, disappointment and abject suffering. He writes poignantly about the brutality of the guards and the starvation experienced by the prisoners. If you want to gain a different perspective on life or learn more about the Holocaust, this is one of the best books that you could ever read.

five days

5 Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

If you have ever heard of Huntington Disease, you have a fairly good idea of what is in store within the book, 5 Days Left. This book narrates the heartbreaking details of life with Huntington Disease. In the story, two individuals are given basically five days to make a decision that will alter the entire lives of their families. It follows the tale of Mara Nichols and Scott Coffman. Scott is a teacher who takes care of a foster son whose mother is in prison. Mara Nichols is a high-powered attorney who has a husband and an adopted child. After they each receive their diagnosis with Huntington Disease, they have five days to make the decisions that they need to and say good-bye to their families. Touching and heartfelt, this story teaches everyone the lengths that you can go emotionally and physically. Before you start reading this book, make sure to stock up on tissues because it is a tearjerker.


A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

This book is yet another story that will leave you in tears. At times, this book is so dramatic and emotionally charged that you have to step away from it for a few moments. It uncovers the tragic story behind child abuse. Unfortunately, the entire story is true. Dave Pelzer is the child in the book who miraculously managed to survive his childhood. He writes about how his mother would play games of torture that brought him to the brink of death over and over again. In the book, he tells the story of living on a cot in the basement and being occasionally provided the luxury of a meal. In this living nightmare, he is forced to play his mother’s games in order to survive and hope for a day when he can be something more than just an “it”. Although this story is heart-rending and tragic, I would still choose to read it again because it offers a greater understanding of life and the trials that some people are forced to undergo.


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

With millions of copies sold, the Fault in Our Stars has a well-deserved reputation. It follows the story of Hazel. She has a terminal case of cancer, but a medical miracle has given her a few extra years to live. Later, Augustus Waters appears in her support group and a lovely romance is born. This story has become a movie and been translated into numerous languages. At any moment, the plot manages to be touching, raw and inspiring. As the tales of these two dying teenagers unfolds, it gives all of us an extra reason to make the most of the time we have.


My Sister’s Keeper by Jodie Picoult

As an extremely successful author, Jodie Picoult has written numerous novels that are worth reading. If you want a novel to cry over, My Sister’s Keeper is the book to choose. Within this novel, you will find the story of 13-year-old Anna. Young Anna was basically born in order to provide her sick sister with spare body parts and transfusions. Like most people, she feels undercurrents of resentment over this fact. Her sister, Kate, requires a kidney later in the book. Rather than give her the kidney, Anna seeks a medical emancipation so that she can choose what happens to her body. This tragic tale is well-worth the few hours that it takes to read.


Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler

Kissed by an Angel is a best selling novel that spans a total of 704 pages. It has an intriguing plot and dynamic character development. In the book, Tristan and Ivy are the main characters who are desperately, totally in love. Unfortunately, tragedy impacts their lives and the main characters must figure out how to deal with it. I will not spoil the book by revealing the entirety of the plot. Instead, you should just know that this is a page turner. Do not start reading this if you only have a few minutes before work or school because you will not want to put Kissed by an Angel down.


Clean by Amy Reed

Basically, this book is about five teenage addicts. Although the premise is self-explanatory, the book is anything other than basic. It follows the story of these five children as they each enter into a rehabilitation facility. Sparks instantly fly between these contradictory personalities and they profess their hatred of one another. Despite a deep dislike for their fellow rehab patients, these five teenagers have to learn how to get along with each other if they ever want to rise off of rock bottom.


Kadian’s Journal by Thomas Harding

Written by Thomas Harding, Kadian’s Journal is a completely true story. If you are a parent or even an older sibling, this book is going to hit especially close to home. In the beginning of the story, it describes the untimely, unfortunate death of 14-year old Kadian. He dies in a bicycle accident and his father is left to pick up the pieces. Following the incident, the father writes of memories of his son and loss from a father’s perspective. If you have ever lost a loved one or if you just want a good book, Kadian’s Journal is an ideal novel for you to read. It is not nearly as famous as the other books on the list, but it deserves to be stocked in every library.


The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Somehow, Nicholas Sparks has managed to have a writing career that is unparallelled by most of his contemporaries. Part of his appeal comes from his completely unique tales that are filled with heart-wrenching emotions and love stories. In the Notebook, readers receive on of the most classic love stories of all time. Exceptionally passionate and poignantly written, this novel is an everlasting tribute to the power of true love. If you are short on time or just need a good movie, it has also been produced on film. Of course, the book is better, but both viewing options are extremely good.


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

If you are like most students, you were once assigned this book in your English class. When I had to read it in school, I did not particularly care for the book. There is something about being forced to read a novel that completely ruins a good story. Since my high school years, I have finally gone back and started reading classic novels again. To Kill a Mockingbird did not disappoint. This tragic tale is set within the 1930s in Alabama. It tells the heart-rending story of a black man who is accused of raping a white woman. This story was originally intended to be a romance by Harper Lee and a love story. In reality, it is so very much more than just a love story. Sold in 40 different languages, To Kill a Mockingbird has sold more than 18 million copies around the globe.


Hang a Thousand Trees With Ribbons by Ann Rinaldi

Phillis Wheatley is a young girl who grew up in Senegal. In the 1700s, she is taken from her homeland and sold as a slave in the United States. While she works as a slave, she becomes engrained within the white family and is treated with care. When the opportunity to go to England arrives, Phillis Wheatley must decide to go or remain as she is. This tale is both informative and touching. If you wanted to gain a different perspective on slavery, this is the book to read.


Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Written in 1961, Revolutionary Road is one of the best examples of realistic fiction that has ever been written. It portrays the life of Frank and April Wheeler. This beautiful couple live within an American suburb and continuously feel like they are just on the verge of greatness. If you like to analyze the books that you read, this novel will have a lot of subplots and metaphors to consider. It essentially portrays the spiritual desolation of the suburbs. In the novel, Frank and April ultimately give up their spiritual birthright by betraying who they are. It is depressing to read the failure of the American dream, but is still extremely engaging. If you wanted to see the darker side of 1950s suburbia, this book portrays it exceptionally well.

mr wigg

Mr. Wigg by Inga Simpson

Anna Karenina by Leo Tostoy or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee are both examples of books that are complicated and intriguing. With Mr. Wigg, the reader gets a book that manages to be exceptional because of its very simplicity. Within Mr. Wigg, we encounter the tale of a Mr. Wigg of New South Wales. Wigg owns a small farm and lives a quiet life with his beloved wife. The entire story is made up of Mr. Wigg, farm life and his family. It may not be complicated, but you will spend days thinking about the story once you have finished reading.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky

This book has received a lot of attention over the last couple of years because of the hit movie starring Emma Watson. I would comment on the quality of the movie, but I have never seen it. As much as I love watching movies that have Emma Watson as a starring character, I cannot bring myself to watch the movie version of an amazing book. The book version of the Perks of Being a Wallflower is the quintessential tale of a teenager’s coming-of-age. It follows the story of the intelligent, but odd, Charlie as he struggles to grow up. With a hauntingly beautiful narration and a relatable main character, this story feels more like something that you have lived through instead of just read. While there are some happier moments in Chobsky’s work, there are certainly some tragic and teary-eyed segments.


Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I generally try to avoid series because I just do not have time to read through ten books at once. Despite this avowal of series, I still read and love Anne of Green Gables. I may end up cooped up for a week at a time with this book, but it is worth every minute. Anne of Green Gables is a series that you have to put on your bucket list. It narrates the story of a young orphan girl who is sent to Prince Edward Island. If this sounds like an odd plot line, it isn’t. Apparently, do-gooders in the 1900s had a plan to put orphans on trains and ship them out to farming towns. Many of these orphans were abused and harmed before the practice was halted. Fortunately, Anne is not one of the orphans who ended up worse off. She ends up at Prince Edward Island with the elderly siblings, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Beyond that basic plot description will require a thorough reading of the books. The Anne of Green Gables series will leave you laughing, crying and growling though each twist and turn of the plot line.


A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

This is the second book on the list by the talented Nicholas Sparks. Like the other book, it is extremely touching and will leave you in tears. At times, the novel can be uncomfortably emotionally intense. This book has also been made into a movie, so you can compare the novel and the movie at your next book club meeting or coffee date.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This novel takes place during the Second World War and stars ten-year-old Liesel Merninger. As a child in Germany, she was actually left alone by her communist mother. She must fend for herself until her foster parents take her under their wing. She is suddently placed in the family of a Jewish man called Max Vandenburg. Narrated by “Death”, this story is exceptionally poignant and thought-provoking. Even if you are not looking for a book that will leave you in tears, this novel should still be read at least once.


Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

If you have ever read this autobiography, you will know that it was not meant to be published. Written by a young Anne Frank, it is the actual diary of a girl who hides with her family during the Holocaust. With the rest of her family, she is boarded up within a small crawlspace for over two years. Through Anne’s eyes, you see a world ravaged by the Nazis and feel the emotions that pass through her mind. This book is tragic to read, but worth it.

firefly lane

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Within Firefly Lane, you will find a close look at the relationship between two girls during the 1970s. It follows the friends as they enter adulthood and deal with jealousy, loyalty and loss. This book will leave you crying, but you might also notice some interesting parallels between it and your own friendships.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Based around the main character of young Oskar Schell, this novel follows the story of a pacifist, inventor, actor and jewler who happens to be just seven years old. Oskar Schell is a boy who was marked by tragedy at a young age when his father died at the World Trade Center. One of the few tangible things that he has from his father is a mysterious key. His goal in the book is to find the door or locker that the key unlocks. From Coney Island to Central park, he begins a journey to find where the key goes in the world. Touching and heartwarming, this novel will leave you in tears.

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